An agenda for change in U.S. climate policy? Presidential ambitions and

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An agenda for change in U.S. climate
policy? Presidential ambitions and
Congressional powers
Tora Skodvin and Steinar Andresen (co-author)
([email protected])
LSE Workshop: Carbon Markets
London, May 5 2009.
Presidential ambitions: Key points in Obama’s
climate policy program
• Make the United States a leader on climate change by
rejoining the UN-based negotiation process with an aim
to develop an international climate treaty.
• GHG emissions objectives:
– Stabilise GHG emissions at their 1990-levels by 2020
– 80% reduction in GHG emissions from 1990-levels
by 2050
– Economy-wide cap-and-trade, no free allocation of
emission credits.
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Congressional powers
• The president can negotiate international treaties, but only
”with the Advice and Consent of the Senate” (U.S.
Constitution, Article II, Section 2);
• International treaties require ratification by a 2/3 qualified
majority of the Senate (67 votes) (Article II, Section 2);
• When ratified, international treaties acquire the same status
as federal law and are subjected to the same implementation
regime (Article VI).
• Implications:
– The United States rarely joins international treaties that are not
founded on existing federal law.
– Ability to take on international leadership role depends on the
adoption of federal climate legislation.
– Congress has a significant role to play in the realisation of
Obama’s climate policy ambitions.
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2008 Elections: Reinforced Democratic majority
in both chambers of Congress
House of Representatives:
• 257 Democrats, 178 Republicans (218 required for
majority)
• Republicans lost 19 seats in the House
Senate:
• 56 Democrats, 2 independent (that normally vote with
the Democrats), 1 undecided (Minnesota)
• 1 switch from Republican to Democrat (Arlen Specter)
• Democrats control a ”filibuster-proof” majority of 60
votes.
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Ideological dimension important, but regional
dimension also significant
Coal-producing states
Source: Energy Information Administration,
http://www.eia.doe.gov/
States with GHG emissions
targets
Source: Pew Center on Global Climate Change,
http://www.pewclimate.org/
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The regional conflict dimension in the
Congressional climate policy debate
• 110th Congress: Group of 10+ Democratic senators
signaled their opposition to the Warner-Lieberman
proposal;
– Coal-producing states strongly represented;
– Support, in principle, mandatory GHG emissions regulations;
– But do not support ambitious and costly measures
(particularly short term).
• 111th Congress: Observers have identified 43
undecided senators;
– 12: ”Probably yes”, 10: ”Probably no”, 21: ”Fence sitters”
– 56% of the ”Fence sitters” are Democrats, 71% represent
coal-producing states. (Source: Environment & Energy
Publishing, www.eenews.net)
• These senators will not vote for climate policy legislation
that conflicts with the interests of their constituencies.
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What could U.S. climate legislation look like?
• Level of ambition:
– Most proposals less ambitious than, for instance, EU position
– Short-term targets (2020) likely to be more controversial than
long-term targets
• Policy instruments:
– All proposals include cap-and-trade provisions, but
acceptability linked to system design.
– Notably, cost containment mechanism is likely: ”Safety valve”
or ”Carbon market Efficiency Board”. A ”hybrid” system (trade
→ tax) would imply incompatibility with the EU ETS.
• Concern about risk of ”carbon leakage”:
– All proposals include ”border tax adjustment” or similar
measure to protect competitiveness of U.S. industry.
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New opportunities offered by the financial crisis:
A ”Green New Deal”?
• Economic stimulus package of USD 700+ billion adopted in
February
• Key feature: linkage of economic, energy security and climate
change issues.
• Energy-related provisions will have low impact on GHG
emissions unless they are combined with comprehensive
climate legislation that puts a price on carbon.
• Educational effect: GHG measures can be economically
profitable and serve other purposes linked to energy security.
• But: Republicans sceptical of this argument. Congressional
vote on stimulus reveals deep partisan (ideological) split.
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Prospects for change in U.S. climate policy
”This was the moment when the rise of the oceans began
to slow and our planet began to heal”
• President Obama has embarked on a shift in U.S. climate
policy both at the domestic and international levels.
• Mobilising sufficient Congessional support for federal climate
legislation will be challenging even with a reinforced
democratic majority in Congress.
• Federal climate legislation may be adopted in 2010 at the
earliest.
• Obama’s delegation will likely go to Copenhagen without a
clear Congressional mandate. Important not to repeat the
mistakes of the Clinton administration in Kyoto: U.S.
commitments must be negotiated on the basis of status in the
domestic decision-making process.
• Even with federal legislation in place, the stretch from 60 to
67 votes in the Senate may be a long one.
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